The worst part of this is that most of these parkways forbid any kind of buses from traveling on them. In many cases, Moses actually built bridges that were too low for buses or trucks to safely pass under. The result is a highway that is only available for private cars - the least efficient, most polluting form of ground transportation.
Moses's justification for barring buses and trucks was to provide a bucolic, recreational setting for leisurely drives. But the widenings have obliterated this character of the parkways, turning them into commuter highways like the LIE and the Thruway. Trees have been cut down and grass paved over. In some cases, like the Hutch, the bicycle paths were eliminated. In others, the highway swallowed up the entire "park," leaving nothing but asphalt. So we have noisy, smelly, dangerous, expensive highways that don't even help move buses quicker.
The Garden State Parkway is a disaster in many ways, but at least it allows buses for the entire length. Many bus routes would be excruciating - and have very low ridership, if they survived at all - if they couldn't go on the Garden State.
It's time for New York state to get with the program. Return the parkways to their original four-lane configurations - with suitable modifications for safety - and rebuild the parks and greenways that once surrounded them. Or else give up the Jay Gatsby fantasies, face the reality that you're dealing with commuter highways, and allow buses to use them.
It is true that many of the bridges are too low for full-size buses. The State DOT often replaces parkway bridges, and in recent years they've even been trying to match the aesthetics of the originals; they can do this while raising the height to allow buses. In the meantime, there are many cutaway vans that can fit under these bridges with no problem. Allowing cutaway van service on the Grand Central, Interboro and Belt Parkways would be a big improvement for transit in those corridors.
The nutty Long Island Transportation Plan 2000 envisioned putting "Rapid Commute Vehicles" - don't call them buses! - on some of the parkways. But in a classic highway department move, these would be brand new lanes with "RCV priority." I haven't heard much of LITP 2000 since way back when; let's hope that those widening plans died with it.
Last month, in response to my post about improving bus service to Connecticut, Woody left a good suggestion:
Put bus lanes on the West Side Highway or Henry Hudson Parkway, whatever it's called, from the Port Authority Bus Terminal right up to the George Washington Bridge to Jersey and onto the Cross Bronx Expressway heading east.
Some of the parkways were designed to keep the riffraff -- that's us bus riders -- off these carriage ways by making the overpasses too low and the underpassings unpassable. But I don't think the Henry Hudson suffers from that design feature.
I checked, and in fact the first low bridge on the Henry Hudson is not until 232nd Street. Even beyond there, as you can see above, the Google Street View vehicle followed a full-size school bus all the way to Fieldston Road. That means that it's physically possible for buses to go from 57th Street all the way up to the George Washington Bridge without hitting a light. Let's make it legal.